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University of Washington

Superfund Research Program

Effects-Related Biomarkers of Environmental Neurotoxic Exposures

Center Director: Evan P. Gallagher
Grant Number: P42ES004696
Funding Period: 1987-2023
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Summary (2017-2022)

The University of Washington Superfund Research Program (UW SRP) Center is investigating the mechanisms and ramifications of metal neurotoxicity in humans and aquatic species. The program is developing biomarkers predictive of; 1) exposure to neurotoxic agents, 2) early indicators of neurotoxic injury at the cellular and organismal levels, and/or 3) genetic determinants that underlie unusual susceptibility to environmental neurotoxicants. The physiological processes under investigation adversely affect cognition, olfaction and neurobehavioral processes, and are associated with the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and non-Alzheimer’s related dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurodevelopmental diseases. The research focuses on metals that commonly occur at Superfund hazardous waste sites for which there are important data gaps impeding the full understanding of their neurotoxic effects on human health and aquatic species. These data gaps include an understanding of mechanisms of toxicity, inter-individual or gender susceptibility, and biogeochemical factors that govern their fate in their environment. A key theme of the projects is addressing the role of cellular oxidative stress during metal-induced neurotoxicity.

The UW SRP Center includes four research projects (two environmental science and two biomedical projects). The research projects include investigations of:

  • Mechanisms and biomarkers of metal olfactory injury to Pacific salmon, with a primary focus on Cadmium (Cd).
  • Cellular and molecular mechanisms of Cd-mediated neurotoxicity in rodents, including effects on olfaction and cognition.
  • The role of paraoxonases as modifiers of Cd, Manganese (Mn), and pesticide neurotoxicity in animal models and humans.
  • Biogeochemistry and bioavailability of Arsenic (As) in an urbanized lake system in Washington State.

The projects include collaborations among projects and cores, and each project is interdisciplinary in nature. The UW SRP Center includes a Training Core that is multi- and interdisciplinary, and will support predoctoral trainees from participating departments. The Research Translation Core continues to ensure timely and appropriate communication of our research findings to NIEHS and other appropriate stakeholders, partner effectively with agencies, identify potential patents, and develop and support translation opportunities with other end-users of our scientific findings. The Community Engagement Core builds upon existing partnerships and expand partnerships with other communities, such as those directly affected by the toxicants being studied, and with other community groups that have concerns about environmental toxicants. The Administrative Core stimulates interactions among projects and cores ensuring full program integration, assure appropriate communication with NIEHS and other governmental agencies, oversee personnel and budgetary matters, and organize meetings and interactions with the Internal Executive Committee and the External Advisory Board.

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